Archive for the ‘silver mines’ Category

Behave Yourself! – Rockwatching Blogging Protocal


scan0001, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Well, Rockwatching has been up and running for a number of years now (5 to be exact) and I believe it has contributed significantly to the interest of people like myself who like caving, rocks, the outdoors, gems and minerals in Ontario.

We are just a few short days from 2011 and I believe it’s high time we made some resolutions -all of us  (you my loyal fellow bloggers as well).

So in the interests of all involved a few ground rules to follow on Rockwatching from now on

1) Lets not carry a personal vendetta onto this site which is meant to be a forum where like minded enthusiasts can interact in a positive way.
2) Lets respect each other and try not to get personal when we are frustrated.
3) Lets respect the basics of conservation and eco-minded thought.
4) Lets not assume stuff we don’t know for sure (hence the survey at the bottom of the post).
5) Lets keep in mind that this is all about enjoyment.
6) Lets keep in mind that just because the topic is on the table, every single aspect that pertains to it is not an open book.
7) Lets respect people who are not on the site, private property, reputations etc. Just because there is discussion of a site or feature does not mean permission has been granted to go there.

8) Lets not get petty, self righteous or important. Stop correcting my grammar, spelling or use of terms. I am a writer at heart and so I believe I can use the language as I please (providing it’s in good taste, or if I choose, not in good taste).

9) Lets not waste my time by having to re-direct you to one of the above rules.

Happy and prosperous 2011 – Mick

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Raw Silver in Cobalt Mining Museum

dad 043, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Here is my dad in the Cobalt mining museum. Sitting on top of a safe they have a chunk of silver that they dug out of the earth nearby worth around $14,000. I doubt that must be the value by weight – maybe there is some kind of value added for collector appeal. If you are big on silver this is the place to go. I would imagine that there is more you can learn about silver in this museum than any place else.

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Whats under Cobalt

P1020263, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I just got back from Cobalt last night, it was a long drive – 6 hours.

While in Cobalt I took an abandoned mine tour. Its a service offered by the local museum – well worth doing if you like that kind of thing. This here is one of the tunnels in the old Colonial Mine. There are over 27 kilometers of passage – stretching as far as Lake Temiskaming I am told. Beneath the level we were at the tunnels are all flooded. Shafts lead up and down – but not anywhere near where we were – it was quite sanitized and safe for the average visitor.

Tunnels spidered along through dense black rock following the calcite veins that had led to silver. Outside every mine there were big piles of scree, it suggested something of the extent of the tunnels within.

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Raw silver found as wire – sold at the Bancroft Gemboree

P1010606, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

If you want it you can find it at the Bancroft Gemboree.

Yeah – they look like fletched arrow spines, barbs on fish hooks or just poorly made hooks but as the vendor explained, they are naturally occuring pieces of silver wire.

I am especially interested in what can be found up in cobalt. There was a massive silver strike up there in the early 1900s. According to the fellow that I was speaking to he said he had no luck in Cobalt – shook his head like it had been a really distasteful experience. “Got these from California”. I suspect he was keeping me clear of a rich hunting ground.

These pieces of silver wire are sometimes found in tangled balls and at other times in thick strands like the branches of a dead tree.

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Locals call him “old yellow mane”. 

IMG_1821, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Though Doug Shier tells me that all roads in the area lead back to Cobalt, I am warned by an older gent in the Silver Load Hotel’s restaurant to be careful out there if I am exploring the ore piles. It was a little cryptic; you might say kind of creepy. I thanked him for the advice, finished pouring my coffee and headed out. I wondered what he might be alluding to. Maybe he was talking about getting lost or falling down a shaft like the Chinese laundering family-hmmmm (They all disappeared one night leaving the food still cooking on the stove – never to be seen again – see one of my earlier posts on Cobalt).

Once out there it really began to play on my mind. I had followed an old tramline down a narrow valley between towering white pines. I was in a hidden valley that for some reason had escaped the miners axe. There was supposedly an abandoned mill a few kilometres up the path. My source told me that it was on the left hand side just before the tailings swamp.

From the impressive “Little silver Vein Mine” I had followed a short incline up to the tramline. I soon found myself pushing along a tree-lined tunnel of soft, feathery-limbed tamarack and cedar. It was a wonderfully “organic experience” that started off in a relatively wholesome way but eventually began to feel quite creepy.

The further I went the more subdued the forest became. Eventually there was only deathly silence. I found myself dwelling on the oddly disturbing feeling of being watched. I thought back to something that I had recently read of. It was the appearance of “Old Yellow Mane”. He is Ontario’s northern Sasquatch. Yellow Mane had first been seen in 1906 by miners at the nearby Violet Mine. He was seen again in 1923 by two prospectors who surprised him while he was picking blueberries. They supposedly threw rocks at the poor fellow and he ran away. As was reported in the North Bay Nugget, Yellow Mane was seen for a third time in 1946. A woman and her son saw him ambling along beside some rail tracks. I never found the mill or “Old Yellow Mane” but the walk was quite surreal.

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What on earth is a glory hole?

IMG_1813, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

At the edge of Cobalt there is a deep open pit that is said to drop down 250 feet. The bottom is filled with cold, black water. A cable cuts across the top right of the picture. At one time there was a spider web of these strands that supported a tin roof to protect the miners below.

The tunnels cut inwards along the silver seams. At night the “High grader” was said to make his own private excavations using stolen dynamite. Doug Shearer, a knowledgeable local historian said, why bother digging to steal the stuff?It was lined up in wagons beside the station, solid slabs of pure, raw silver. “What a waste of time! There was nobody to stop them from hijacking a wagon load”.

In Cobalt all the locals have an “abandoned mine story”. Down along the shores of Long Lake I met a guy who was walking his dog early in the morning. He reminisced about a candle-lit journey that he had made as a teenager from a tunnel far out in the forest. They walked along in the dark, their light flickering with an unpredictable breeze that blew from within. Eventually they were reduced to crawling, the hot wax raising blisters on their skin. Through a tight squeeze they emerged into sunlight window way up the inside of the “Glory Hole” I am not sure how much the water has risen since his youth but it would seem to me that one of these exposed entrances might be the one.

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IMG_1905, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Miro, a former Polish Mine worker got quite excited when he saw my photo. “We used to call those “gornicza tadowarka” (mine dumpers)”. They were powered from compressed air that fed from the surface. Apparently the pressure could vary quite considerably depending on how far you were from the main line and how many other people were using dumpers at the same time as you. Midnight shift was the best time for optimum power.

Gently rotating his wrist Miro demonstrated how to operate the controls. The operator stood on a platform to the side of the engine and the scooper would lift rocks into the ore carts behind. “Dont turn your hand like this, (a jerking twist to which he howls with laughter)too much air, the machine jumps like a horse. The rock falls out of the spoon and everyone breaks their leg”.

This photo is of one of the mine dumpers used in Cobalt. The air power came from a condenser at the nearby Ragged Chutes. This kind of equipment is scattered all over the town of Cobalt. It is on the surface above, hidden in the bush and moonscape of the mine dumps. A great many old relics are also said to lie untended in the tunnels beneath the town.

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